Djinn is a horror movie written and directed by Justin Powell and David Charbonier and stars Ezra Dewey as Dylan Jacobs, a mute boy who has to face off with a djinn after doing a ritual to grant him a wish. While Djinn is not one of a kind—neither djinns nor wishes gone awry are novel ideas—it successfully blends the two. It elevates tension via the claustrophobic setting and natural investment audiences feel for a child in danger. While the 80s timeframe doesn’t feel essential but tactical, to cash in on throwback 80s craze in shows and films, it still manages to tantalize through synthetically creepy, sometimes garbled, music. 

High-wire Tension Thanks To Great Acting

Keeping tension tight is a challenge in film. Often, breaks in tension are accidental rather than intentional and can flatten the viewing experience. The more confined the space with fewer actors/actresses present, the greater the challenge. Fortunately, Ezra Dewey as Dylan rises to meet this challenge effortlessly. He portrays a quiet, somber child to perfection. The flashes we see of a nightmare Dylan has clues us to the deeper reasons behind Dylan’s need to have a voice. It leaves the viewer terrified and impatient for the pieces to come together. Dylan is grappling with something no child should have to experience. 

THE DJINN Courtesy of IFC

The fear is sustained as the audience knows he’s under a time limit that he must survive till in order for his wish to be granted. The audience is also more aware of how wishes can become perverted or skewed. The wish granted can ultimately become a wish abhorred.  

Sound Effects Raise The Terror

The sound effects ebb and flow with what’s taking place on screen. Joyful, vibrant synth 80s music plays as the lyrics “there is no turning back” (albeit a bit on the nose) fill the viewers with both excitement and lurking terror. Indeed, sound is the enemy later, as Dylan struggles to hide from a nemesis he summoned. A nemesis that refuses to allow him to leave. He has to win at all costs now. 

But it’s no easy feat and the stakes are high. It’s not only abject physical terror but psychological as the djinn can manifest as any dead person. The special effects are thankfully minimal. Seeing Dylan’s fear as he tries to maneuver through the apartment is effective enough. We don’t need to imagine being stuck. After all, quite a few of us are trapped now. It’s surprising how much smaller a house or apartment can feel when you’re stuck in it. While Dylan has a time limit, we have only hope.

Djinn is minimal indie horror. Nothing goes to waste. It’s always a joy to see what creators of horror can make with a small budget. It’s almost like a sampling and leaves us imagining what they could do with more. Justin Powell and David Charbonier make it clear they are ones to watch. They have a resourcefulness in finding the right actor and setting to bring a horrific vision alive. Djinn is a chillingly explores a child’s grief, false guilt, and Ezra Dewey plays it to perfection. Djinn expertly holds the audience’s tension while gradually raising it as the time runs down and out for his wish. Recommended to all fans of horror.

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